The Doctrine Of Divine and Unconditional Election
by Jerry Dodson, Sr.
There is perhaps no Biblical doctrine more misunderstood, despised and hated by men than the doctrine of predestination and the divine, unconditional election of God. Yet the truth is that apart from Divine Election, no sinner could ever be saved. IF ONE ONLY UNDERSTOOD THE DEPRAVED CONDITION AND THE NATURE OF MAN, HE WOULD OF NECESSITY EMBRACE THIS BIBLICAL DOCTRINE.
The word Election is easy enough to understand. Noah Webster defined the word, “elect,” as to pick out of, or to select from among two or more; to take by preference from among two or more. In theological terms, it means to be chosen as the objects of God’s mercy. We as men are accustomed to making choices. Our choices, however, are often determined by some attraction in the object of our choice. We will choose this candidate over another because he is more conservative etc. We choose this meal over another because it tastes better or this car rides more smoothly than the other or perhaps is a better buy.
Men will concede that even God has a choice. In the scripture men agree that the nation Israel is God’s chosen people, perhaps because the scripture refers to them as such and it’s rather hard to deny it. God can choose whether or not to permit it to rain etc., but when it comes to the matter of salvation, He is suddenly stripped of His power to choose. The choice becomes man’s. Man must choose God and if he does not, there is not a thing that God can do about it. After all, God must not violate man’s “free will,” thus we see the doctrine of the sovereignty of man and the impotence of God.
The doctrine of Predestination and Election is not some new teaching which began with Augustine of the fourth century or John Calvin of the sixteenth, though both were advocates of what is referred to as the five-points of the Doctrine of Grace. That doctrine did not originate with them. I am not an Augustinian, for he is called the Father of the Catholic Church. Though he believed the five-points of what is commonly called Calvinism, he believed that man could not be saved apart from the church. I am certainly not a Calvinist. Though Calvin put the five-points in a systematic order from which we get the acrostic “TULIP”, he never fully separated himself from Catholic Doctrine. He had the wrong view of Baptism. Whether immersed, poured or merely sprinkled was simply a matter of preference to Calvin. He practiced infant baptism. He supported a state church and joined forces with Catholics in persecuting Baptists. Calvin was guilty murdering Baptists. I AM NOT A CALVINIST, but I embrace the five-points of the doctrine of salvation by the sovereign grace of God.
I embrace the doctrine of divine election because it is biblical and is found throughout the pages of the Holy Bible. The Doctrine of Predestination and Election is harmonious with the gospel. In fact it is the foundation for the gospel of salvation by grace. Without divine election, there can be no grace extended, for election makes the objects of grace possible. Without divine election all stand condemned. Every departure from the doctrine of election in any degree is a departure from the gospel that Jesus preached; taught by the apostles; embraced by the New Testament Church and contained in all the scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments.
In our day you seldom hear the true gospel preached. Rather you hear easy believism. There is no halfway position. It is an all or nothing doctrine. Either God chooses whom He will save or else man chooses whether or not he will be saved. One or the other is sovereign and has the final say in the matter of salvation. There can be no middle ground. Either Christ’s death at Calvary was victorious to secure the salvation of those for whom he died; those whom the Father chose unto salvation before the world began and gave to the son according to scripture, or else He failed in his desire to save all Mankind. It is evident that all men will not be saved.
I want to remind you of the BIBLICAL PROOF OF THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION; WHAT THE DOCTRINE IS AND WHAT IT IS NOT. I want to DEFEND US FROM BEING CALLED HYPER-CALVINISTS by exposing the errors of their way and finally to SHOW YOU HOW THE FIVE-POINTS OF THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE ARE INTER-RELATED. Either we believe all of them together or we believe none. None can stand apart from the others.
THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION IS EASILY FOUND IN SCRIPTURE
2 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul wrote, “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 15Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”
Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
In the passages of scripture just read, we clearly see the doctrine of election and predestination being taught.God hath from the beginning chosen us unto salvation before the foundation of the world. He was writing to believers. REMEMBER WEBSTER’S DEFINITION OF THE WORD “ELECT,” TO PICK OUT OR SELCT FROM AMONG TWO OR MORE. The very term “elect” or “chosen” implies that one is chosen while another is not.
DIVINE ELECTION IS UNCONDITIONAL
Earlier I made reference that a man’s choice is often influenced by the object of his choice. We chose the vehicle we drive because of the make or model; perhaps because of the gas mileage or performance. It might have been because it was a good buy. THE POINT IS, WE OFTEN CHOOSE BECAUSE OF SOME INNER QUALITY OR BENEFIT TO US. Not so with God. Remember that all mankind is totally depraved and in enmity against God. There was nothing in any man to attract God or to benefit Him. All are guilty and worthy to be eternally damned and God would be just in doing so. The Law of God condemns the guilty yet God in his infinite mercy chose to bestow His grace upon some.
Romans 9:11, declares, “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;”
The scripture just read reminds the believer that He predestined us unto the adoption of children. God determined beforehand to do so and He did it according to the riches of His grace; according to the good pleasure of His will. Yet many today continue to reject the Biblical doctrine of Divine Election. Others believe it to one degree or another though they completely misunderstand what it really means.
THE DEBATE CLARIFIED
In the fourth century, Pelagius taught that man could indeed save himself. He said that mans’ sin problem was caused by his environment. By putting man in the right environment and giving him a chance, he would do what was right, thus save himself. Isn’t this a major philosophy in this present day? Augustine, the forerunner of Calvin, refuted him. In the sixteenth century Jacob Arminius, who at the beginning was a student of Calvin but later parted ways, disagreed with Pelagius. MAN CANNOT SAVE HIMSELF, he contended. God MUST HELP HIM. Since God has DONE ALL HE CAN DO, MAN MUST DO HIS PART AND MEET HIM HALF WAY. Adam’s fall left man weak and wounded but with enough strength and goodness to reach out to God if only he would. To that, Calvin objected.
Calvin had begun to revive the teachings of Augustine concerning predestination and election. Man was so corrupted by nature that he could not save himself and except God had chosen him unto salvation he would never be saved. Though Arminius confronted him, he could not disagree with the doctrine of divine election. It was indeed biblical, but he attempted redefine it. God’s election and predestination was therefore based upon God’s foreknowledge. Since God knew from beginning who would believe, He chose them. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? It means THAT God’s CHOICE WAS BASED UPON MAN’S PERFORMANCE. IS THAT NOT WORKS?Yet that is the most common view of election today, but there is just one major problem with that position. “IT JUST AIN’T SO.” That is not good English but it is awfully good theology.
If God chose sinners on the basis that He knew they would receive Christ, of necessity, the opposite would also be true. God did not choose others because He knew they would not believe. That makes Salvation based upon what man does or does not do. Anything a sinner might contribute to his salvation, however small it might be, must be called works. You cannot mix works and grace.
Romans 11:4, declares, “But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. 5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
Elijah, sought after by wicked Jezebel to kill him for slaying her prophets of Baal at Mt Carmel, cried, “Lord I am the only faithful servant left and they seek to destroy me.” Yet God said in His word, “I HAVE RESERVED UNTO MYSELF 7000 MEN. I HAVE PUT MY MARK UPON THEM. THEY ARE MINE. THEY ARE SET ASIDE FOR ME. THEY HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.”
Likewise God, in the same manner, has reserved unto Himself a people, a remnant according to the election of Grace; a people that does not deserve it. They could never have purchased it nor earned it. Grace did for the sinner what we could never have done for ourselves. God provided Himself a sacrifice for a burnt offering, taking our sins upon Himself and bearing our judgement so that the justice of God could be met.
Ephesians 2:8, tell us, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works. lest any man should boast.”
If any man dare say “God chose me because He foreknew that I would believe” is actuality boasting about his belief. He is saying that God chose him because HE knew that he would believe. IF THAT IS TRUE, THE OPPOSITE IS ALSO TRUE. If he had not believed, God would not have chosen him. What then is the basis for salvation? IS IT NOT WHAT MAN DOES? NEVER, FOR THAT IS WORKS.
Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8 that faith by which a man believes is a gift from God. We are saved by grace through faith. Through faith he said, and it, that is, faith, is the gift God. It is interesting that 2 Thessalonians 3:2 says, for all men have not faith.
THE GIFT OF SAVING FAITH COMES THROUGH THE WORD OF GOD
Romans 10:17, clearly says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Yet the teachings of Arminius are most popular today. They contend that God looked ahead and saw who would believe which became the basis for God’s election and predestination. God chose us because He knew we would chose him. YET “WHAT SAITH THE SCRIPTURE?”
John 15:16, Jesus told His Disciples, You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.”
Now someone has to be wrong and I doubt it was our Lord.
GOD’S ELECTION IS UNCONDITIONAL
Since the election of God is not dependant upon any quality or action foreseen in man that makes God’s election unconditional. By that I mean there are no conditions which must first be met. Had God looked ahead in time to evaluate man, what would he have seen? The scriptures tell us plainly.
Genesis 6:5, we are told, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
There is certainly nothing there; no quality whatsoever to have drawn God to man, but rather what He saw stirred up His divine wrath. That is why He judged the world in Noah’s day.
UNDERSTANDING THE DOCTRINE OF DIVINE ELECTION
We have seen what the Biblical Doctrine of election is not, now let us see what it is. Please keep in mind what we said about Total Depravity last week. Every sinner is depraved totally and is thoroughly crooked in all his ways. Man is by nature corrupted and there is nothing in him that sin has left unscathed. If we fully understood that doctrine then there would be no problem in receiving the doctrine of unconditional election. “Oh but preacher,” one might object, “Suppose God chooses one who does not want to be saved; or perhaps He doesn’t choose another who really wants to be saved.” I have heard that very thing expressed. To you, dear friend, I would say you understand not the total depravity of man. The scripture doeth say, “for there is none that seeketh after God,” (Romans 3:11).
That was certainly true of Paul who considered himself to be the chief of sinners. Before his conversion, he was Saul of Tarsus breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord. He certainly had not been seeking to be saved. His confidence was in the Jews Religion (Galatians 1). Yet while on the road to Damascus, God saved him and in the fifteenth verse of the ninth Chapter of Acts, Christ, Himself, testified that Paul was a chosen vessel. Notice the evidence of unconditional election unto salvation.
MORE SCRIPTURAL EVIDENCE OF UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION
Romans 9:1, I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
Wouldn’t you like to see all men saved and come to Christ, especially your own kinsmen and family? Indeed we all would, yet in the fourth and fifth verses of Romans nine, Paul raised a most profound question, “WHO IS THE TRUE ISRAELITE?” Remember that Abraham had two sons; Ishmael according to the flesh and Isaac according to the promise of God. Verse seven says, “in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” Paul had declared in the sixth verse that not all of the Israelites were really Israel, that is, not all of the Israelites were sons of Abraham in a covenant sense. Then Paul proceeded to make that clear.
Romans 9:8, That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. 9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. 10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11 For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
God had chosen Jacob over Esau before they were ever born; before the world began in fact; before either had done any good or bad. He chose one over the other. Is that not unconditional election. God’s choice did not take into account any actions which He perceived to have been done. TAKE TIME TO READ GENESIS 25 AND SEE HOW DECEPTIVE JACOB HAD BEEN. He was a deceiver and as much a scoundrel as Esau, yet God loved Jacob and hated Esau. God hated one but loved the other. There are those whom God hates.
Romans 9:13, As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. 17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
That sounds like uncondtional election to me. Out of the same lump of the clay of humanity, God, whom Jeremiah eighteen portrays as “The Potter,” hath made two vessels. One after Esau and the other after Isaac. The one a vessel of wrath fitted for destruction. The other a vessel of mercy which he hath before prepared unto glory. One a vessel unto dishonor and the other a vessel unto honor. The one He hardeneth and the other He hath compassion. Hath not the potter power over the clay. Indeed, so scripture testifies. Is there unrighteousness with God? “God forbid!” Can fault be found with God? NO!!! Paul clearly called attention to two companies of people; the elect and the nonelect, to establish the truth that salvation is not of him that willeth or of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy so that the purpose God might stand, not of works but of him that calleth.
Jeremiah 31:3, The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
Psalm 65:4, Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto Thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness Of thy house, even of thy holy temple.
THE EFFECTS OF DIVINE AND UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION
THIS GLORIOUS DOCTRINE MAGNIFIES THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD AND SETS HIM FORTH AS GOD. The God whom the Arminian serves is small, trying to save men, yet men reject him and He is powerless to do anything about it. THE SCRIPTURE, however, PORTRAYS GOD BEING VERY MUCH IN CONTROL, PERFORMING HIS OWN WILL.
UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION MAGNIFIES THE GRACE OF GOD. It shows how God can so work in the life of a sinner, depraved and dead, and how through the quicken work of the Spirit of God, He enables the sinner to turn to Christ; to love God that he before hated and to be in subjection to his word that he before loathed. Only a work of grace can do that.
Galatians 1:15, But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace.
THE DOCTRINE OF UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION MAKES SALVATION SURE.
John 6:37, All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
John 10:14, I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” And in the twenty-sixth verse, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and my Father are one.
Unconditional election is indeed sure, for the elect of God shall be saved to the last one.
Romans 8:29, For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
Romans 8:28, And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
If one understands that sin condemns every man and places him under the just demands of the Law of God; that man sins willfully and loves his sin, hating God; that there are none righteous and none that seek after God. Yet it pleased God to choose an elect from among the people of the world whereby His grace might make them to be different. Then and only then will one embrace the doctrine of divine and unconditional election.
HOW SHALL WE ANSWER OUR CRITICS?
Indeed we do believe in the five-points of salvation according to the Sovereign Grace of God, however, we are not Calvinists nor will we permit ourselves to be confused with “Hyper-Calvinists” who have gone to seed on the doctrine of predestination. They do not preach the Gospel because they say God will save them. Though that is essentially true, God is pleased to save sinners through the foolishness of preaching (1 Corinthians 1:21). The church has been commissioned to spread the gospel throughout the world and to preach it to every creature. We are faithful to do that, both at home and abroad. We preach the gospel to sinners whenever and wherever we have opportunity. But rather than resort to gimmicks and the methods of the persuasion of men, we preach with confidence in the power of the gospel. We believe that through the preaching of the word God will save whom he will through the inner working of the Spirit of God. Indeed there are those whom we love dearly and would like nothing more than to see them come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We will keep on preaching to that end.
1 Corinthians 2:1, and I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
We believe that all whom the Father has given to the Son shall come to him according to scripture. We believe that God shall add to His church all such as should be saved. We will faithfully proclaim the gospel with whom we have opportunity trusting God to have mercy upon whom He will. Salvation is of the Lord and may He receive Glory for the good things He hath done.
May God’s word honor and glorify Him. We are assured that His word will not return unto Him void but will accomplish the purpose which He intended.